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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Neurological Institute Researcher Receives Inaugural Award for Work in Spinal Muscular Atrophy

St. Paul, Minn. – Umrao R. Monani, PhD, an assistant professor at the Neurological Institute of New York at Columbia University, has been selected to receive one of the first Young Investigator Awards in Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). The Young Investigator Awards support researchers working in a mentored environment toward the cause, treatment or cure of SMA, the leading genetic killer of infants and toddlers. The award will provide Monani with $85,000 each year for three years, plus an allowance for tuition and research expenses. In a novel approach, the award also provides support for Monani’s mentor, Thomas Jessell, PhD. Jessell, a noted neuroscientist, will support Monani’s research by providing advice and guidance. “It is truly an honor to have been selected for this award,” said Monani. “I am eager to begin this new phase in my career.” SMA is a progressive, debilitating and potentially fatal disease of the motor neurons caused by the absence of the survival motor neuron gene, or SMN1. SMA occurs in one in every 6,000 live births. Monani’s research involves determining what goes wrong with the motor neurons in SMA. “Understanding when the motor neurons begin degenerating and which part of the cell is first affected will provide us with important information as to how early a treatment might need to be implemented if it is to prove effective,” said Monani. “Identifying factors in this disease that might make it better or worse allows us to pursue rational drug design.” Besides benefiting SMA patients, Monani says these studies could further understanding of muscles and nerves in general, which would impact other diseases such as Lou Gehrig’s disease or multiple sclerosis. Monani will be honored during the American Academy of Neurology 56th Annual Meeting in San Francisco, Calif., held April 24 – May 1, 2004. Co-sponsored by the American Academy of Neurology Foundation, the Young Investigator Award is funded by a grant from the Spinal Muscular Atrophy Foundation. The American Academy of Neurology Foundation works with the American Academy of Neurology to promote research in the neurosciences and to advance public understanding of the disorders of the brain and nervous system. For more information, visit its Web site at www.neurofoundation.org. The SMA Foundation works to accelerate progress toward a treatment or cure for SMA. It has pledged to invest at least $15 million dollars in research over the next three to five years, through the support of programs such as this Young Investigator Award. In addition, the Foundation is actively working to raise awareness about SMA among industry and government leaders. To learn more about SMA Foundation activities, visit the Web site at www.smafoundation.org.

The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 27,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, concussion, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.

For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit http://www.aan.com or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube.

Editor's Notes:Cynthia Joyce can be contacted at the SMA Foundation at (646) 253-7100 or cjoyce@smafoundation.org.


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